From this stylish international city, the islands, rainforest and reef of tropical North Queensland are on your doorstep. Snorkel, dive or do a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef – a World Heritage-listed spectacular of coral islands and marine life. Enjoy the oceanfront energy of the Cairns Esplanade and trawl the restaurants, shops and bars. Go white water rafting in the nearby rivers and take the scenic railway to the tranquil, butterfly-fringed village of Kuranda. Don’t miss a day trip to the magical Daintree Rainforest, thought to be the planet’s oldest surviving tropical rainforest.
Five things you should do in Cairns:
Soak up the city’s relaxed, tropical ambience on the Cairns Foreshore Promenade. At its centre is a 4,800 square metre saltwater lagoon surrounded by more beautiful bodies than an episode of Baywatch. Cycle, walk or rollerblade along the three kilometre Esplanade Walking Trail. Or get your steps up wandering between the restaurants, bars and hotels with beautiful waterfront views.
Snorkel, dive or do a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef – a World Heritage-listed spectacular of coral islands, sponges and seaweed. Learn to dive with one of the many professional schools stationed around Cairns. Or if you’re an experienced diver, take a day trip out to the deep drop offs, underwater tunnels and caves. Check out the myriad of technicolour coral and marine life on a glass-bottomed boat on a snorkelling trip to Green Island, Fitzroy Island and the outer reef.
Go white water rafting down powerful Tully River, just an hour south of Cairns. It twists through the rainforest on more than 45 rapids ranging from mild to wild. Or float your inflatable boat down the rapids of the Barron River, past the majestic scenery of Barron Gorge National Park. For real white-knuckle adventure, take a helicopter to the North Johnstone River and raft out over four days, camping in riverside clearings. Or enjoy a gentler ride on the Russell River, after a trek through rainforest and swim in a crystal clear pool.
Climb up mountain ranges and through tropical rainforest, waterfalls and national park on the relaxing one-and-a-half hour journey from Cairns to Kuranda. This century-old railway showcases natural wonders like Barron Falls and Stoney Creek Falls, as well as the historic engineering feat of Barron River Falls Bridge. In the quaint rainforest village of Kuranda you can cruise down the river, past butterflies, gaudy parrots, platypus and fresh water crocodiles. Or boardwalk through World Heritage listed rainforest to Barron Falls lookout. Browse the street markets, buy Aboriginal artefacts and learn to play the didgeridoo. Head back to Cairns, where you can continue your Aboriginal experience with the world-famous dance theatre Tjapukai.
Take an ecotour down the Daintree River in the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest. The planet’s oldest surviving tropical rainforest is just a two hour drive north of Cairns and home to Australia’s most diverse range of plants and animals. See fresh-water crocodiles sunning themselves on the mangrove-lined river banks, as well as many rare tropical birds and animals. Feast on freshly caught barramundi in the picturesque Daintree village or continue north to Cape Tribulation. Here, where the forest plunges to the reef, you can bushwalk, spot nocturnal wildlife and swoon at Bloomfield Falls.